How Health Care Can Support and Benefit from Sustainability Efforts

Trees in the forest

With new ESG regulations, the push for organizations of all industries to create environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies and implement ESG reporting processes has increased.

The health care industry, including health systems and hospitals, could benefit from increased sustainability efforts. By prioritizing environmental responsibility, organizations can attract and retain talented employees, enhance emergency preparedness, and improve the health outcomes of their communities.

Health Care Industry’s Impact on the Environment

The health care industry contributes to environmental degradation through the generation of medical waste, including hazardous materials and pharmaceuticals. Improper disposal of these wastes can lead to soil and water contamination, posing risks to ecosystems and human health.

Additionally, the energy-intensive and water-intensive operations of hospitals and health care facilities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and water depletion.

What Health Care Personnel Are Saying

According to a survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, US health care workers are urging their employers to address climate change and minimize their impact on the environment.

Four Survey Takeaways

The survey highlights the strong desire among health care workers for their organizations to prioritize climate change and sustainability efforts.

  1. About four in five clinicians believe it’s important for their hospital to address climate change and that doing so aligns with their organization's mission
  2. Three in four clinicians feel it’s important for them personally to work on reducing their environmental impact, both at work and at home
  3. Respondents working in leadership positions reported that most hospitals are increasingly undertaking climate mitigation initiatives, such as reducing energy consumption (69%) and waste (76%) or setting emissions targets (35%)
  4. Approximately six in 10 clinicians stated that a prospective employer's policies and actions on climate change would influence their decision to apply for a job

These results tell us that health care organizations that invest in sustainability initiatives are more likely to attract and retain clinicians who prioritize reducing their environmental impact, align with the organization's mission to address climate change, and are influenced by a prospective employer's policies and actions on climate change.

How Can Health Care Support Sustainability Efforts?

These tactics can help support sustainability efforts to directly address the industry’s main impacts on the environment:

  • Reduce waste. Implement waste management strategies, such as recycling and proper disposal to decrease the environmental footprint of health care facilities.
  • Energy efficiency. Transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to improve energy efficiency or invest in energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting and energy-efficient HVAC systems.
  • Water conservation. Implementing water-saving measures, such as low-flow fixtures and efficient landscaping, helps conserve water resources, which is crucial in areas facing water scarcity.
  • Green building practices. Designing and constructing health care facilities according to building standards, such as LEED certification, can enhance energy efficiency, improve indoor air quality, and reduce resource consumption.

How Can Health Systems Benefit from ESG Efforts?

Health systems could benefit from supporting ESG efforts for several reasons, including internal benefits such as reduced costs and operational efficiencies; while simultaneously providing external benefits to the communities and patients that are impacted from these health systems.

  • Improved health outcomes. Addressing climate change and its negative health impacts, such as respiratory issues from poor air quality and heat-related medical incidents, is crucial for promoting public health and reducing health inequities, as vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by climate change. Social initiatives, such as addressing health disparities and promoting access to care, can also improve overall population health.
  • Resilience and adaptability. Addressing ESG factors can enhance a health system’s resilience and adaptability to ESG risks, such as climate change, public health crises, and evolving societal expectations and needs. For example, investing in an emergency plan preparedness in response to increased physical risks associated with climate change, such as extreme weather events, can help health systems better protect their facilities, patients, and staff.
  • Community engagement. ESG initiatives can strengthen relationships with communities and foster partnerships with other organizations, enhancing the health system’s impact and reach.
  • Cost savings. Implementing energy efficient practices and sustainable waste management can lead to significant cost savings via decreasing operational expenses.
  • Employee engagement and retention. Supporting ESG initiatives can improve employee retention by fostering a sense of purpose and engagement among staff who value ESG initiatives.
  • Brand strengthening. Demonstrating a commitment to ESG can strengthen a health systems’ reputation, attract patients, employees, and partners who value sustainability and social responsibility.

Implement an ESG Strategy in Six Steps

Below is an overview of how your health care organization can get started with ESG.

Six steps to implement an ESG strategy

We’re Here to Help

For more information on how ESG can benefit health care organizations, contact your Moss Adams professional.

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